Today I want to talk about fundraising, and share what I would have said to potential donors if Symphony leadership had ever taken me up on the offer I made to successive Symphony administrations over a period of at least ten years to go along on donor calls (spoiler alert, they never invited me, or any of my several colleagues who made similar offers, along).
As an aside, we musicians have found that members of our audiences along with people who encounter us on other occasions are excited to speak with members of the Symphony. Our "Ask-a-Musician" feature during concert intermissions has been extremely popular. We are always happy to share a view from the stage! And so one would think that taking along a musician on a donor call would be a no-brainer.
First it must be acknowledged that potential donors have a right to choose whether they want to donate, to whom they wish to donate, and how much they determine is appropriate to donate. It’s their money.
That being said, the Symphony benefits everyone in the San Antonio community whether or not they attend a single concert, and this is what I would say to potential donors:
You are already benefiting from the presence of the San Antonio Symphony in your city. We are the largest professional arts organization in town. We are an important part of the local economy and in particular the downtown economy. When we have concerts, people don’t just buy tickets. They pay for parking. Maybe they come down early to dine before the concert, or perhaps they go out after the concert. There are 72 professional musicians in the Symphony who also need to eat before or after a rehearsal or concert, and also need to park.
We are an essential part of the educational infrastructure. Musicians from the Symphony teach at local colleges and universities; we lead sectionals at area middle and high schools; we work with the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio; most of us teach private music lessons; and all of this is in addition to the successful young people’s concerts we play every year for area public, charter, private, parochial, and homeschool students.
We are part of the quality of life in San Antonio. When a major corporation is looking for a city in which to locate or do significant business, one of the questions often asked is, “Is there a symphony?” We collaborate with other area artists, including the Opera, the Ballet, Mariachi Las Campanas de America, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio, and local university and even high school ensembles.
Now that you see how much value the musicians of the San Antonio Symphony bring to your community, a city which is our home too, here is your opportunity to be part of our success by making a generous donation.
That is what I would say to potential donors.
The ludicrous suggestion that “the money isn’t in San Antonio” for the extremely modestly paid San Antonio Symphony musicians is indefensible when one compares the San Antonio metro area with other cities of similar (and smaller) size, similar median income, and far more impressively funded orchestras. Similarly, even if one accepts as givens the usual caveats that “San Antonio is a poor city” and/or “the demographics of San Antonio aren’t favorable to a professional orchestra” (never mind the implied racism of the latter), those arguments are already answered by the fact that the musicians are fighting to keep an $8M budget, not achieve the $18M budget that is more in line with our peer cities.
Of course there is much more to fundraising than my thoughts above; the musicians are just one piece of the puzzle. It must be said, though, that another very large part of the puzzle consists of casting a wide and comprehensive net. The musicians have heard on a regular basis from individuals and from representatives of businesses who all say that the Symphony has never reached out to them.
Why doesn’t our board and management want to be part of our success?
-Mary Ellen Goree
Principal Violin II
Chair, Negotiating Committee